Chuseok 2021: What Is The Festival Looking Like This Year?

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It’s this time of the year again, while some of you might be busy pulling out your cute boots and scarves to go pumpkin carving, the Koreans are now preparing for Chuseok 2021 (“choo-suhk”). It is otherwise known as the Korean thanksgiving – a celebration of bountiful harvest with their beloved family and food. 

If you have no idea what Chuseok is, feel free to check out this article before you proceed! You will find out everything you need to know about Chuseok, the most significant traditional holiday in Korea.

Chuseok 2021: What do we know?

Celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, Chuseok 2021 will be happening on the 21st of September this year. It is a week earlier than usual. Being a national holiday, the Koreans would get a three-day off to travel back to their hometown and pay respect to their ancestors during this festival. And together, they thank the Gods for the plentiful harvest, and pray for a successful harvest in the coming year. The holiday begins on the 20th of September and ends on the 22nd for Chuseok 2021. The weather during these few days is almost always really great, too! Fingers crossed for a nice weather this year as well!

Looking back at chuseok 2020

As most of us already know, our lives were pretty much cancelled last year due to COVID-19. This of course included Chuseok 2020. In light of the safety concerns during this dreadful situation, the South Korean government strongly encouraged South Koreans to stay put and not to travel for Chuseok 2020. Most Koreans – very begrudgingly – surrendered to the coronavirus, and stayed at home for the holiday in order to avoid aggravating the outbreak.

What should we expect for chuseok 2021?

Because of last year, it begs the question, what is Chuseok going to be like this year? What are the restrictions, what is new, and what will change?

Coronavirus in South Korea now

The Covid-19 pandemic situation in South Korea was unsteady, it was affecting the government’s decision on what precautions to take in advanced to Chuseok 2021. However, the cases have been dropping recently. This is mainly due to the fact that more and more South Koreans have been getting the vaccination. According to a news article on The Korea Times, the daily cases of coronavirus have stayed under 1,500 for two consecutive days.

While still (reasonably so) fretting over the potential flare-up of corona cases during the Chuseok 2021 holiday, the Korean government has eased the restrictions, including the social distancing, curfews, and in-person visits. On top of that, transportation will still be available across Korea. So that more Koreans could go back to their homes to be with and celebrate Chuseok 2021 with their family. Nonetheless, the government still advises the South Koreans not to travel if not necessary, so as not to cause the bounce-back of cases. They also urge the Koreans to take the vaccine shot before celebrating the festival. They should wear a mask at all times as well. Thermal screening and sanitization equipment will be found everywhere.

Despite the loosening of restrictions, many Koreans, especailly the ones in the cities, still choose not to travel back home for Chuseok 2021. While this is disappointing and frustrating, the national safety should always come first.

What Is Already Happening?

As many people’s traveling plans got cancelled, they have to make the best of this holiday with what’s possible. Thus, street markets are already packed with mountains of people. They are preparing for Chuseok 2021 by buying traditional food and other necessities for the holiday:

So as to help the underprivileged and the needy to also feel the joy of the festival, volunteers (with masks, of course) have been preparing songpyeon – a crescent-shaped rice cake – to give to these people:

How Can We Participate In Chuseok 2021 Too?

Even though Chuseok seems to just be a holiday for local Koreans to celebrate with their own family. We, as foreigners, can feel the joy too by visiting the cultural and historical sites during Chuseok 2021.

Places That Are Closed Due To The Pandemic

All the major tourist attractions are still open. However, their opening time might be restricted and some areas, closed. Therefore, I strongly suggest everyone to check out thier official webpages before heading over there.

Places You Can Go To:

Joseon-era Royal Residences

The five palaces – Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Deoksugung, Changgyeonggung, and Gyeonghuigung – are for sure the must-see destinations for the Chuseok holiday. The government would usually waive the entry fee or offer discounts on the tickets during this time of the year. They are amazing places to visit over the holiday as they have an array of traditional activities you can join or watch and interesting places you can go to inside. For example, in the Gyeongbokgung Palace, you can visit the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul. You can also try on and rent hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) in the palaces. It is a perfect place to take beautiful pictures!

But please be reminded that because of the pandemic, the guided tours in these palaces have been suspended. Deoksugung Palace only allows a certain amount of people to enter. Moreover, they all require their visitors to have proper sanitization and thermal screening. Just follow all the rules set to ensure your health, and you can enjoy every amenities and activities in the palaces.

You can find out more about their opening time, the latest updates and other details on their websites:

Namsangol Hanok Village

Namsangol Hanok Village is another popular place to go to during the Chuseok holiday. It is basically a home for five beautiful hanoks (Korean traditional housings) from the Joseon Dynasty. Apart from tourists, local Koreans also love going there with their families to spend the day. Traditional Korean performances, like folk dances (ganggangsullae) and instruments playing (janggu: hourglass drums).

You may also participate in workshops and traditional games like yut, which is a kind of board game, and neolttwigi, which is a traditional outdoor game.

Image Source: yut in the village
Image Source: neolttwigi in the village

They also have on-site archery experience and rice cake making classes during Chuseok 2021 in which you can join and enjoy with your loved ones.

Like in the palace, traditional Korean clothings are available for people to rent. Throw on these pretty hanboks and take pictures in front of the traditional houses!

If you want to know more about the Namsangol Hanok Village, and what activities they will be having, feel free to check out their official webpage!

Performaces and Shows

Apart from visiting historical places for the amazing scenery and cultural events, you can enjoy some traditional shows as well!

p.s don’t worry about the language barrier, because these performances are non-verbal. You will understand them completely even if you don’t know any Korean. Plus, the very few words that would be spoken are mostly English.

Jump Show

The award-winning martial arts performance is a combination of talents and comedy. It is packed with martial arts like  ‘taekwondo’ and I promise it will have you laughing the entire time! Unfortunately, they have cancelled their daily show at Myeongbo Art Hall (Seoul) because of COVID-19. You can still check out their website for the latest updates for future references!

Cookin’ Nanta Show

Sounds like a cooking show but it is actually a musical about a group of kitchen staff. The performace includes entertaining elements like acrobatics, magic tricks and comedy that guaranteed to draw you in. Performers would also play traditional Korean samul nori music – thus, a musical. Like the Jump Show, they also ceased having their daily show in Nanta Myeongdong Theater and Nanta Hongdae Theater. Keep an eye on their website, for more information and updates!

FANTA-STICK

Nope. Not it has nothing to do with the soda fanta. It is actually a live musical with a fusion of “gukak” (Korean folk music) and modern pop & rock. The show also features visual performances like breakdancing and percussion playing. Performances are stopped for the last two years due to the coronavirus, but there is always hope for next year, right?

Any Other Places I Can Go?

I know, I know. It sucks that you can’t go to many places during Chuseok 2021 because of the pandemic. But you can still go to openspaces like the palaces I have mentioned, or even just take a walk in one of the parks! Stunning orange and red foliage with the autumn breeze, Chuseok is a beautiful time in Korea. So even just wandering around the city you’re in is an awesome activitiy to do in Chuseok. Seoraksan Mountain is known for it’s jaw-dropping autumn views, take a stroll there and see for yourself!

Wait… What If You Can’t Travel??

There’s no need to panic. I got you! Even if you can’t travel anywhere during Chuseok 2021, you can try making the traditional Korean food featured in this festival instead. So, even when we’re stuck at home, we can still have a taste of this joyous holiday (literally)! Check out Kimchimari to see how to make the traditional food! Also, there are many recipes exclusive for Chuseok here! Her recipes are easy-to-follow and very thorough, perfect for even amateur cooks/baker like myself!

If you want to know more about Korean culture and festival, feel free to check out our blog page!

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